2009 has been a banner – oops, I mean bummer – of a year for me.
2009? See ya later!
First off, I turned 40.
But the powers that be decided that scary number wasn’t enough of a reminder for me that I’m getting O-L-D. Oh, no.
A month before my big 4-0, Michael Jackson died. One of the biggest entertainers of all time – and perhaps the biggest symbol of my generation – gone. Poof.
And now, as 2009 draws to a close, comes the disturbing news that another fond memory of my teen-dom is biting the dust:
The daytime soap opera “As the World Turns” – which has been turning for a whopping 54 years – has been canceled by CBS.
Be still my beating heart.
Though I haven’t watched “ATWT” in probably about 20 years, this news still pains me. I have many fond memories of the residents of Oakdale, Ill.: Holden, Lily, Dusty, Craig, Lucinda, Iva and Josh/Rod, to name but a few. The show launched the successful careers of several actors, including Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey and William Fichtner, all of whom were on the show when I watched it.
And I’ll never forget my wonderful yet all-too-brief correspondence with one of its biggest stars of the ’80s: Frank Runyeon. Frank played Steve Andropoulos, a hot-to-trot Greek whose romance with Betsy Stewart drove fans wild. Betsy, by the way, was initially played by none other than the adorable Meg Ryan (from 1982-1984). Lindsay Frost took over the role from 1984 to 1988 (according to Wikipedia).
Frank sent me this autographed photo (note my name at the top- yay!) during our brief correspondence in 1986./Photo by Ava Gacser
But I digress. My correspondence with Frank began as an assignment for my journalism class at Franklin High School. I was a junior at the time and a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Fama, instructing us to write letters to celebrities requesting interviews. I was amazed when Frank actually wrote me back and suggested we be pen pals.
This is the final letter Frank wrote me, dated October 1986, in which he let me know he was leaving "As The World Turns."/Photo by Ava Gacser
I received six letters from Frank – all of them typed (I recall hearing somewhere he was a quick typist!) – beginning in March 1986 and ending in October. Even cooler, he composed each one on the back of “ATWT” scripts! Check it out:
This page from an "As The World Turns" script includes scenes with Steve, Betsy, Lily, Lucinda and Sierra./Photo by Ava Gacser
By now you might be thinking that there’s actually no Jersey connection to this story. But that’s where you’d be wrong: Frank is a Princeton University graduate!
And my Jersey love for “ATWT” doesn’t end there, no sirree. When Jon Hensley came along – playing the “buck naked” bad boy Holden Snyder opposite Martha Byrne’s sweet-as-pie Lily Walsh – I was head over heels. So imagine my teenage reaction when I discovered that Jon was going to appear at the opening of the Wick Plaza strip mall in Edison, N.J.!
"As The World Turns" star Jon Hensley signed autographs for fans at the grand opening of Wick Plaza in Edison, N.J., on April 30, 1988./Photo by Ava Gacser
In addition to meeting Jon (a Browns Mills native) and snapping some great pictures like the one above at the event, I also got this autographed photo of him.
Another personally autographed photo. Score!/Photo by Ava Gacser
In case you haven’t read between the lines yet, “ATWT” is responsible for awakening my teenage lust. And with these hot actors – and their relatively close proximity to me – how could it not?
Alas, as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, my interest in “ATWT’ waned. But even though 20+ years (good grief!) have passed since my obsession with the show, I still remember it fondly and am sorry to see it go.
(In fact, to this day, every time I drive down Route 1 in North Brunswick and pass the Oakdale Mobile Home Park, I think of the show.)
Fortunately, I have all of these great experiences and memories to hold on to. Thanks, “As The World Turns.”